Quick question: What’s the easiest step that you can implement in a hiring process outside of a basic application?
Another question: what’s the step in the hiring process that has the most likelihood of being legally challenged?
In a review of 158 cases in the U.S. Federal Court involving hiring discrimination from 1978 to 1997, results found that unstructured interviews were challenged much more than any of the other 8 selection devices included in the review. Sixty percent of cases involved unstructured interviews. Of these 81 cases involving unstructured interviews, the challenge was successful in 59% of the cases and the organizations were found at fault. Meaning, there’s a lot of legal risk associated with unstructured interviews.
So, does this mean that we should steer clear of interviewing as a step in the hiring process for fear of legal risk? No—how interviews are conducted can make a big difference. By using structured, behavioral interviewing, you can reduce your chance of legal risk significantly. In the same study as mentioned above, only 9 charges were against structured interviews. However, of the cases that involved structured, behavioral interviewing, 100% of the cases were successfully defended. Basically, structured interviewing poses much less of a risk to organizations.
When reviewing these cases against interviewing, courts closely review three components:
The consistency of the interview across candidates. Is there a standard interview guide that is used for the target position? Within the interview guide, there should be standardized competencies included. All candidates should receive questions related to these competencies. Additionally, interviewers should make sure that they are following the guide rather than ask “off the cuff” questions.
The job-relatedness of the interview questions. During a job analysis, you uncover the competencies that are critical for success in the target job. The questions within an interview guide should target a specific competency. Additionally, these questions should have some face validity. Meaning, they challenge a candidate to discuss a past situation that they could encounter on the job. For example, we want to hear how they manage conflict among team members, rather than with their siblings.
The extent to which the interview process was designed to be objective. Behavioral interviewing is a process and it does not end when the candidate exits the room. It’s also very important to consider the rating process, data integration process, and how you make your decision as to whether the progress or reject the candidate. First, when making ratings, you should have scoring criteria to reference. In particular, behavioral anchored rating scales provide interviewers example behaviors of what unacceptable, acceptable, and very acceptance. Interviewers use these guidelines to make a rating and justify their score based on the actions candidates mentioned in their responses.
Additionally, it’s important to consider the process of data integration. When combining ratings for competencies across questions or across interviewers, the most legally defensible method is a strict average of the ratings. Averaging the ratings removes some underlying biases that interviewers may bring to the table. While this is the most legally defensible method, it is also helpful to engage in consensus discussions when ratings are very discrepant. This not only allows interviewers to talk about things the other interviewer may not have heard, but it also serves to calibrate interviewers and keep them accountable for their ratings. Finally, when making a progress/reject decision, you should have some documentation supporting your decision.
Outside of the legal reasons, structured, behavioral interviewing makes sense from an accuracy perspective. They are over two times more effective at predicting job performance than unstructured interviewing. During behavioral interviewing, you are gathering specific work-related examples of a candidate’s past behavior. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior and, therefore, hearing examples of how they have interacted in past work situations can give you a good indication of how they will act in the future.
Unstructured interviewing can often stray away from these past-behavior questions and, therefore, the information being collected is not as rich. Using a structured approach also encourages interviewers to get a complete and very detailed response from candidates. By asking several probing questions, interviewers can enough information to ensure they can make an accurate rating.
Interviewing can have a lot of value-add to a hiring process. However, it’s important to make sure you are following guidelines for structured, behavioral interviewing to ensure you are getting accurate information and doing it in a manner that is most legally defensible.